Friday, February 12, 2010

Multiplayer, or "Is WoW REALLY Optimized for Group Play?"

WoW is a multiplayer game, and that's what Blizzard wants it to be.

Faction transfers (i.e. alliance to horde) were supposed to help reduce solo play. The service allows friends to congregate on the same server and faction so they can play together.

This is evidence that Blizzard thinks and cares about promoting multiplayer gaming within WoW.

The problem, and it's not something they can really "fix" without changing rules tied to the very fabric of the game, is that if you want to be a certain race because you LOVE that race or that character design... sometimes you can't.

Not and play with your friends.

See, I don't think I'm the only one who likes to have a stable of different races, because they're all interesting in their own way. So I can't be the only one with some characters who benefit from a large guild and other characters who waste away in the lonely "Other Faction" zone.

I would like to take Birdy on alt raids, but I can't. Because she's stuck isolated from my guild for the heinous crime of being a Night Elf.

I've mentioned this elsewhere (with less coherency) as a drawback, but it is not something they can actually fix because the game is designed to prevent it. To fix this issue, they'd have to redesign the game.

Something else that I think holds players back from indulging in the multiplayer side of the game is alts.

Admit it. If you have an alt, you've expended resources to make that character worth your while. My husband's best friend has 7 characters at max level and uses them as a profession mill. You need anything crafted, disenchanted, or ground, you go to him.

So my question is -- why must we need alts?

We use them for professions, to try out different classes, and (for some of us) to express our love of character design.

But seriously, if the goal of the game is to hit max level and be of use to a multiplayer setting, why are we forced to have more than one character in our stable to experience more than our class or professions?

As WoW has evolved, I've begun to see less and less reason for a single character to be limited to two professions and one class. Problems show in the achievement system, which I've previously discussed as flawed, but tweaking achievements to cover an account instead of individual characters doesn't strike at the heart of the problem.

The problem is that we have to roll alts to try new classes and level new professions, and those alts take us away from the multiplayer endgame. Thus, for the multiplayer side of the game, the necessity of alts for a player to experience everything is a drawback.

And so this, too, is a fundamental flaw that doesn't have a fix. Because changing this would change WoW into Final Fantasy Online, which allows you to learn different classes (jobs) from the ground up without switching characters:
As your adventures progress, you may find that new jobs become available. Why not try your hand at learning the ways of the bard, ranger, or beastmaster?
Now, here's where I've run myself into a corner with all of that: I create alts because I want varied character designs.

Yes, you heard me. I level alts because they're pretty.


Thus, even if Blizzard were able to give us every profession and let us level any class on one character, I'd still be sad. Because I like having multiple character designs around for their ambiance.

Okay, now this is where my careful arguments break down into wishful thinking and the just plain wacky.

Picture it if you can...

*spreads fingers and holds hands up in a dramatic "Can you see it?" gesture*

Companion characters.

Alts that don't do anything... but you design them... and their job? Is to follow you around and look pretty!

For the serious player set, we might have to think of something more than "Look pretty." Like one of them is an auctioneer, who you can use to reach the auction house, and the other is some sort of personal assistant, who will run things back and forth to your personal bank (like the Argent Tournament kid when you give him the pony bridle.)

But the end effect would be that single players could run around with a little entourage that they'd get to design and dress. And if player housing existed, that's where they'd hang out if you weren't using them.



Blizzard has said before that they like alts as a time sink for players who are burnt out on endgame, but there are more flaws than solutions to the way the game is set up if the goal of this MMO is to be an MMO first and foremost.

We need to be able to focus on our mains, whether it's progressing at endgame or indulging in time sinks, but WoW doesn't give us the tools to stay with one character.

There's no way Blizzard can change the game to fix these problems without changing the game, so I leave you with the hope that their next MMO will take these thoughts into consideration, and perhaps my post on customization as well.

Because if there's anything I love more than looking pretty, it's getting to be creative.


1 comment:

  1. I would f&cking love to have an entourage running behind Meruze/Lamora as she ran about, setting things on fire. That would be pimp.


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